Monday 13 May 2024

The Roof Is Caving In review

There's nothing quite like the excitement of moving into your own home and the freedom of doing what you want when you want. But there's always a dark cloud looming over you as you are at the beck and call of real estate agents and trying to foster a mutual relationship of respect between these strangers you have chosen to live with. In The Roof is Caving In, two university students move into their first share house and face the internal and external struggle of constantly compromising to hold on to the serenity and exhilaration of being in their first home away from home.

Written by Matilda Gibbs with Belle Hansen and Jack Burmeister, The Roof is Caving In is a highly entertaining absurdist look at the challenges in renting such as rent prices, housemate dramas and the vulnerable position renters are regularly in. The narrative moves at a rapid pace but still takes the time to highlight these issues while building towards its inevitable climax.

Marlena Thomson and Bek Schilling play Hester and Bronwyn, the two new tenants of this house. It doesn't take long for tension to arise around their differing views on house sharing. Thomson's Hester wants clean surfaces, cushions on couches and politely dealing with real estate agents whereas Schilling's Bronwyn is more about having a home lived in and allowing for mess, noise and parties. Depending on how you choose to live your life, then you'll automatically be drawn to one over the other (proudly Team Hester). The two actors do well in letting the ridiculousness of this world bleed into their performances without becoming a joke or a mockery of who these people are.

Setting up a full house interior in a space like La Mama is ambitious, but set designers Brigette Jennings and Hansen (who also serves as director) have done that and so much more. There are creative liberties in the layout but rooms are intelligibly defined without restricting the performances. The entire set and props are all painted teal, a colour symbolic of calmness, serenity, and balance, extremely ironic in this instance.

Fitting two actors and five musicians - Joanna Halliday (violin), Karen Yee (piano), Linus Finn Mackie (guitar), Joshua Mackie (trombone) and Daniel Kim (clarinet) - on the stage is another obstacle for this space, but the ingenious set design allows Hansen to have the musicians playing outside windows, and inside fridges and showers. Burmeister's composition and sound design strengthens this nightmarish scenario where even when the music is lively and joyful, there is still an underlying mood of terror and horror lurking.

All musicians are dressed in various teal-shaded costumes with matching nail polish and make-up. The attention to detail in this production is very impressive. Each artist also takes on small supporting roles with Halliday clearly relishing playing the arrogant real estate agent and Joshua Mackie providing plenty of laughs as the skittishly awkward handyman. This gives way for them to become entangled in the plot and add to the outrageousness being presented.

The teal theme is wonderfully contrasted with Hester's orange outfits and possessions and Bronwyn's purple equivalents, reinforcing the idea that it's impossible to feel like your rental property is your home when you have strict rules, frustrating processes and difficult agents and landlords to contend with.

Acknowledging that we are living in an age of uncertainty and unachievable housing aspirations can be depressing and anxiety inducing. While The Roof is Caving In raises these concerns, its uniquely surrealist approach and commendable performances shine a fresh perspective on the reality we’re facing that allows you to laugh and be entertained with little despair.


Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton
until 19 May | Wed - Thurs 6:30pm, Fri - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4pm 
75 minutes
$35 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

Image credit: Darren Gill

1 comment:

  1. Such a funny and thought-provoking show! Very relatable and current!